The Country That Shook: Nepal two years after the earthquake

A guest post from artist Sophie Maliphant about her project to raise money for Nepal following the devastating 2015 earthquake.

I was in Nepal when the earthquake happened on 25th April 2015. It was a surreal experience to say the least and one that has changed my life.

I travelled back to India a week after the main quake, sleep deprived, terrified of the continuous aftershocks and guilt-ridden to be able to leave when so many others couldn’t. I wrote a short story on the bus, an imaginary tale of a small girl caught up in the quake who falls through a crack to find a sad yeti under the ground who is the reason for the shaking.

Initially I thought it was just for me that I started to create illustrations for each of the eleven rhyming verses; as a kind of therapy. But as time passed the bud of an idea, to use what I was creating to raise some money for the beautiful people of Nepal, grew and grew until I couldn’t ignore it.

Sophie Maliphant

Six weeks after the quake, when all the illustrations were finished, I launched a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to raise the money I would need to get my sketches produced into a book so that I could sell it. This was the first opportunity to share my idea and the visual style of my creation with other people – I was nervous!

Luckily I needn’t have been; the campaign target was surpassed and I had over £3,000 of generous pledges to make the book a reality… The Country That Shook was born!

I was still travelling in Asia at this stage so I decided to get the book printed in China, where I was able to visit the factory where the book was to be produced. It was an amazing experience in itself and incredibly important for me to ensure the working conditions were safe.

Book factory, Shenzhen

When the 1,250 books were printed they were sent back to the UK by cargo ship, which took six weeks. When they arrived it was finally time to get selling and on October 25th, exactly 6 months after the quake, the online shop went live.

In the meantime I’d been busy exploring countless avenues for promoting the book and its incredible cause. The project was featured on philanthropic, travel and design blogs (including GSL!), and there were numerous newspaper articles written around the UK. It was stocked in 14 book shops, including the National Museum of Cardiff, and even had a full window display for a month.

On my return to the UK I arranged talks at schools to coincide with World Book Day which were incredibly successful and heart-warming to see young children’s reactions, some of whom gave me their chocolate/snack money for the day to add to the fund. Really humbling. I did presentations across London’s design agencies, which is where I work, sharing the unusual creative journey of my little book to very supportive audiences. And I also hosted some market stalls to reach new audiences.

In June 2016, after a lot of research, I partnered with The Gurkha Welfare Trust (Registered Charity No 1103669.) to support the reconstruction of a school in Nepal. A school seemed most appropriate for a children’s book to fund, and in Nepali culture the whole community benefits from the facilities of a school. The Trust have been amazing from day one, supporting the project by launching a children’s competition, and featuring me in both their email and paper newsletters. They even waived their usual administration fees because I had been saying that ‘every single penny would go to Nepal’ since the project started.

In December 2016, The Country That Shook reached the £10,000 landmark, an amazing achievement. Building work had just started on the school that I am supporting: Shree Barbot Lower Secondary School is east of Kathmandu in Solukhumbu district. It has just under 200 pupils right through from nursery to secondary school and the buildings were deemed irreparable after the earthquake. By this time, the children hadn’t had a safe school to go to for over a year and a half.

Shree Barbot

The school is five hours walk from the nearest road, so all building supplies are carried for the last part of their journey on mules and donkeys. That’s why building work takes so long in remote parts of the country – the logistics of organising the materials are a little different to the UK!

On 25th April 2017, exactly two years after the disaster, the project hit £11,000 and I got the happy news that the school was 80% finished and on track to be completed by the start of the monsoon rains, which is a very important deadline!

80% complete!

And two weeks ago it was confirmed… the school is safely finished! Money donated by The Country That Shook has paid for one of the classrooms, the toilet block and a clean water supply that will benefit the whole community. All funded by a little story written on a bumpy bus to India.

Completed classrooms

That’s the story so far but it really isn’t over yet. I currently have over £1000 to donate which will either pay for equipment for Shree Barbot or go towards another school build. And there are countless other schools on lists to be rebuilt, and people who have still not got anywhere safe to live. For some people the reality of life in Nepal for the last two and a bit years has been tough, and even before the quake it was one of the 30 poorest countries in the world with some living in unbelievably basic conditions.

The books and other merchandise are still for sale on https://www.gwt.org.uk/www.thecountrythatshook.com plus more updates and photos can be found on www.facebook.com/thecountrythatshook. Please like or share it if you think anyone you know might be interested in a unique project for a very special cause.

If you know of a company or school who would love to host a talk about this journey please don’t hesitate to get in contact via the website or facebook.

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